At San Diego Comic-Con yesterday, Microsoft and 343 Industries showed the first glimpse of Halo: Nightfall to the world. Nightfall is an upcoming five-episode webseries that builds on the success of Machinima's Halo: Forward Unto Dawn series. It's also intended to bridge the gap between Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, while containing some narrative hooks for the planned Halo television series.
The series will be broadcast on Xbox Live, meaning only Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone users can view it. Essentially, Nightfall is part of a continuing strategy to slowly push Halo out to mainstream audiences, while still requiring that audience to stick to Microsoft platforms and services.
Nightfall tells the story of ONI agent Jameson Locke (played by Mike Colter), who is sent on a mission to the broken remains of the first Halo installation to retrieve or destroy an element that targets and kills humans. Locke and his unit obviously run into some trouble, but we don't know what form that trouble will take yet. The trailer gives off a distinct Prometheus feel in my opinion - albeit with Halo weapons - probably due to the input of Alien/Prometheus/Blade Runner director Ridley Scott. Scott is only Nightfall's executive producer, while television director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan is directing the series.
I'm pretty excited, as I'm a big fan of expanding the mythology of game universes through other mediums. I'm the guy who consumes the comics, novels, and movies based on games like Halo, Dead Space, and Assassin's Creed. They're not all great, but I like to see what's being added to the universe. There's just something about a host of different people contributing different ideas to a single concept that resonates with me; that's probably why I enjoy things like Marvel/DC Comics, James Bond, Gundam, and Kamen Rider.
Outside of the overall quality, which should be unsurprising given that the series has a bigger budget than the solid Halo: Forward Unto Dawn, the most shocking thing about Nightfall is Agent Locke himself. Do you remember the single image released for the announcement of Halo 5: Guardians? That's Locke, too.
Nightfall acts a origin story for Locke, who will play a larger part in Halo 5 alongside series mainstay The Master Chief. In Halo 5, Locke is obviously a Spartan, while Nightfall presents him as an average un-augmented human who happens to be very good at his job. I assume that by time we hit the end of Nightfall, something will find Locke joining the Spartan-IV program and getting his distinct Mjolnir armor. Colter has confirmed that he has done voice work and motion capture for the game, so it looks like he may be Halo 5's version of the Arbiter.
Locke continues the Halo series' trend of being rather inclusive. Halo's Master Chief is a white male inside the tin can and Halo: ODST's Rookie is male, but the protagonist of Halo: Reach has a gender chosen by the player. The rest of the spin-offs and adaptations tend to star women and minority characters, like Halo: Spartan Assault and Halo: Initiation's Spartan-IV Commander Sarah Palmer, Halo: Uprising's Ruwan Ackerson and Myras Tyla, Halo: Evolutions' Felicia Sanderson (the first openly gay character in the universe), or Halo: Legends' Daisy-023. The supporting cast of Halo: Reach is also noted for having a wide variety of races for the Spartans of Noble team.
Creators tend to feel that they can play around in the fringes of a universe, so that tends to be where the most interesting stuff happens (reboots are the other spot where stuff can get crazy). The great characters and stories that pop up in side-stories and adaptations can eventually feed back into the main properties, making them better. See Batman: The Animated Series' Harley Quinn as a great example when it comes to another medium; since making the transition to the comics, she's improved the DC Universe.
As the Halo universe grows, I hope they continue to improve the universe with new, interesting characters. Nightfall is only the beginning for Locke and I look forward to learning more about his journey. Here's hoping Nightfall is a great webseries and hoping 343 can continue the potential success with the Halo TV series.